Friday, January 24, 2020

How Playwrights Horizons is shining a spotlight on God off Broadway | America: The Jesuit Review

"The Christians" at Playwrights Horizons

How Playwrights Horizons is shining a spotlight on God off Broadway
by Rob Weinert-Kendt
America: The Jesuit Review | October 24, 2019

Off-Broadway isn’t a distinct neighborhood in New York City; it refers simply to any Manhattan theater with a middling budget size and seat capacity. But the theater company Playwrights Horizons is literally on 42nd Street, a few blocks west of Times Square and the heart of Broadway’s commercial theater district. And in more than just geography Playwrights Horizons has long epitomized Off-Broadway, producing new plays by the likes of Christopher Durang, Annie Baker and Lynn Nottage that have had as much national impact as anything originating on Broadway, if Pulitzer Prizes and regional productions are any guide.


Playwrights Horizons has also been a place where New York theatergoers can get an above-average dose of plays on spiritual, even religious themes. It was there that I went for my first review for this magazine—10 years ago—of Evan Smith’s “The Savannah Disputation,”in which a young evangelical Christian argues with her Catholic neighbors, and eventually their priest, that they are not true Christians at all. It is where Lucas Hnath’s Socratic-debate-as-church-service “The Christians” pondered the theology of hell and the authority of scripture; where Heidi Schreck’s “Grand Concourse” put a Bronx nun in the crosshairs of a crisis of faith; and where more recently the musical “A Strange Loop” climaxed with a disturbing gospel-style refrain in the vein of a black-church altar call, “AIDS Is God’s Punishment.”
The play currently running on its mainstage, “Heroes of the Fourth Turning,” is a meaty, up-to-the-minute portrait of red-state Catholics, written by Will Arbery, the son of two esteemed academics at Wyoming Catholic College. It has garnered ecstatic praise from mainstream critics as well as from Rod Dreher at The American Conservative. (The New York Times recently noted that R. R. Reno and Sohrab Ahmari were spotted at a recent performance.)


It would not be fair to say that religion is a dominant strain at Playwrights Horizons, which stages all new work on a wide variety of themes, or that it is the only New York theater with God on its mind (“Doubt” originated at Manhattan Theatre Club, for instance; “Sons of the Prophet” at Roundabout Theatre Company). But it’s an unmistakable throughline of the theater’s programming, and it can be traced to artistic director Tim Sanford, who has had the job since 1996 (and just announced that he will leave the post in mid-2021).

Though he is not a religious person himself, Mr. Sanford explained in a recent interview, his father was a Methodist minister who originally felt called to ministry after being a “staunch pacifist” during World War II. Much of his father’s pastoral career was in the cause of ecumenicism, Mr. Sanford said, and in what he called “a very strong wrestling match with the right wing of the Christian party.”
In his experience, the contemporary theater is full of folks like him: adrift from organized religion but still seeking meaning and community.

“It's pretty easy to wriggle out of Christian influence when you’re in a super progressive church,” Mr. Sanford said. Some influence sticks nevertheless. “If you asked the people in our field what their parents did, I would guess that ministers and therapists probably enjoy a fairly high percentage in churning out secularized, no longer practicing, but still metaphysically and spiritually inclined people.”

That squares with my own experience and observations, of both myself and others. I have often thought of theater as my church, for reasons that seem fundamental to both practices (ritual, communion, iconography), and know plenty of like-minded critics and artists. As Mr. Sanford put it, “I do think it is baked into theater—the radical empathy of assuming that it’s possible, or that it's at least a project worthy of attempt, to inhabit another person. To get inside of them. That’s kind of a metaphysical notion to begin with.”

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Sanford’s studies included heavy doses of theater, literary criticism and philosophy, particularly Henri Bergson, who had a “view of time that was not linear, it was volumetric. He thought of time as being something that fills up the vessel of the person. Time doesn’t go away; it’s not discrete, it's interpenetrating.” Bergson’s thinking informed Sanford’s dissertation on Proust, Pinter and Beckett, and it still informs the way he thinks about playmaking. “Theater is the only art form that uses human beings as its clay. And I think when you’re working on a play with actors, it’s inside of them somewhere, and the change that is effected on them is cumulative.” The plays he has programmed over the years, he said, also live inside him somewhere—and in their audiences:
“The other common thread between a play and a religious service is its repeatability. You go to church no matter how you’re feeling because you understand that it’s cumulative. You might have a moment of redemptive insight, even just five seconds. Well, that gets added to your self, right? And that's why you do a play.”

While you could tick off Playwrights Horizons’ programming by theme or genre—post-apocalyptic sci-fi (“Mr. Burns, a post-electric play”), transgender family comedy (“Hir”), grief meditation (“The Treasurer” or “A Life”)—Mr. Sanford insists that he doesn’t program plays by topic, even if he admits that he is drawn to some more than others.

“I felt called after the Trump election to try and do something, and I did plays that were topical in certain ways,” he said, citing Robert O’Hara’s “Mankind,” about a post-female dystopia, and Lindsey Ferrentino’s “This Flat Earth,” about a school shooting. Topical doesn’t mean preachy, he emphasized. “I think the best way to really answer back to the world is to write a good play, not to turn a pamphlet into a play.” He cited Cleanth Brooks’s concept of the “heresy of the paraphrase,” by which he meant “that art is not paraphrase-able, or if it is—if its goal is to give you a message or something you can boil it down to—it can’t possibly be a good play.”
Not every play at his theater has cleared this bar, in my opinion, but its batting average is high. And if the work at Playwrights Horizons, including comedies and musicals, seems to have in common a certain seriousness of intent, Mr. Sanford said, “That’s more a reflection of my belief that theater really calls us to examine who we are and what we believe.”

Amen to that.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

jan 23 | feb fest - apprentice project

This year's Pacific Theatre apprentices are excited to present Feb Fest: An Eclectic One-Act Play Festival

You may have met Chantal, Jade, and Nicola at the box office or in their fall production Foolin' Around - and now they're excited to present three more pieces for you. The festival is a light-hearted and varied exploration of the nuances of human connection: What does it take to connect meaningfully with a stranger? What happens when you use your voice? What does an enduring connection look like?

Tickets are only $15, but if you're a PT subscriber, admission is FREE! 

Click here to purchase tickets now

FEBRUARY 5-8 at 8:00 PM
FEBRUARY 8 at 2:00 PM


THIRD AND OAK: THE LAUNDROMAT by Marsha Norman
Directed by Nicola Shannon.
A cagy, retired teacher and a reckless young woman find themselves doing laundry at a laundromat in the middle of the night. This bittersweet comedy about love, loss and hope is set at 3:00 a.m in a laundromat in Louisville, Kentucky. Nicola says, “the story is so engaging because it comes across almost as a mystery play: why are these women doing laundry at this strange time? What are they hiding?”

NOSEGATE by Chantal Gallant
Written and performed by Chantal Gallant.
A few weeks after Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer files a complaint, citing discrimination and bullying in the workplace. The Unhuman Resource Department of Holiday Creatures has to step in for an internal investigation. Will the rest of the reindeer be able to defend themselves and keep their jobs, or will Christmas as we know it change forever?

HERE WE ARE by Dorothy Parker
Featuring Jade Munsie.
Set on a train to New York City, a newlywed young man and woman traveling for their honeymoon find themselves faced with the reality of marriage, and the question arises: will they be able to survive together?

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

jan 15 | the hunt for a new executive director


While the artistic end of Pacific Theatre is headed by Ron Reed, the day to day running of the theatre is in the hands of our Executive Director.

Our outgoing ED, Alison Chisholm, left last summer to enjoy the full-time role of Executive Mommy and Ian Farthing has been serving as our interim ED since then.

But the hunt is on for a new face to lead Pacific Theatre into the next stage of its life!

Could it be you? Or is there someone else you know that is looking for a change and would enjoy the challenge?

The ideal candidate will be someone who is organized, literate, good with people, numbers and budgets and who can lead the staff team with humour and grace. Oh - and someone who can personally get behind the mandate of PT.

For a full job description and how to apply, click here.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

mar 12 | martyn joseph

Ten or fifteen years ago Michael Hart and I went over the the North Shore to see Welsh singer/songwriter Martyn Joseph at a Rogue Folk concert, and I was blown away. His presence on stage was massive; the audience response was electric. Not your standard folk concert (though I've been to some pretty rowdy ones!). But I think what most amazed me was the fact that Joseph is an unabashed Christian, and made no bones of the fact in his performance. Not that great artists can't be Christians. But the culture of the folk music scene in Vancouver at that time was distinctly antagonistic to Christian faith - and here were the folks at the Rogue slating this guy for their concert. And here was a packed theatre full of Rogue folkies on their feet for this guy. It was heartening.

He'll be back here in a couple months. It'll sell out. You should go.




The Rogue Folk Club & CelticFest Vancouver Present
MARTYN JOSEPH
Mel Lehan Hall at St. James
Mar 12 @ 8pm
3214 West 10th Ave, Kitsilano
info | tickets

Martyn Joseph is a powerful singer and songwriter gifted with the rare ability to speak to the soul with his expressive and poignant lyrics. With a career spanning 30 years, 32 albums, over a half a million record sales and thousands of live performances, the versatility of his music touches genres of folk, rock, soul, folk funk and Americana, yet somehow all these labels cannot define the spirit of his music.

Compared to Bruce Springsteen, John Mayer, Bruce Cockburn and Dave Matthews, he has created his own style and reputation as a mesmerising live performer and stands in his own right, built on a reputation for giving what thousands have described as the best live music experience of their lives. A unique talent driven by passion, social awareness and love for his trade, his music manages to empower and speak for the many. He’s a jaw dropping guitar player who has developed a unique percussive style, teamed up with a powerful show stopping voice, and has been called “The Welsh Springsteen”

Martyn was awarded Best Male Artist at the 2004 BBC Welsh Music Awards and in 2012 his song “There’s Always Maybe” won the best folk song category in the World Independent Music Awards. In addition to his 5 top 50 UK hits, the importance of his work has been recognised by programmes such as BBC 2’s prime time series on singer/songwriters. Social justice has an essential presence throughout his music, which has been recognised with various humanitarian awards and plaudits.

Concerned with making music that is relevant and vital to his audience, he engages with challenging narratives tackling the complexity of the human condition underpinned with a promise of hope. In his own words “Really what I do is to try and write songs that might step up and make some sense of a moment in time. A good song makes you feel like you’re not alone in the world.” There is a versatility to Martyn’s music that is hard to categorise. Many have tried, resulting in labels such as folk, rock, soul, folk funk and Americana; all of which somehow miss the mark. But sometimes music doesn’t need a defining genre and with the ability to articulate a sense of the bigger picture, Martyn’s music and social commentary manage to empower and speak for many. His songs are pictures, and stories, and feelings all put to music and delivered by a master craftsman.

In 2013 Martyn released a CD of Bruce Springsteen songs, to great public and critical acclaim, with the glowing endorsement of Dave Marsh, acclaimed American music critic and official Springsteen biographer.

His CD Sanctuary was released in Autumn 2015 to great critical acclaim. The album was produced by Grammy award winner Ben Wisch and it musically pools myriad influences and is lyrically contemplative, honest and big-hearted – attributes that also convey a sense of both the artist and the individual. It’s impossible not to share his optimism for the collection.

2014 saw him take the spirit of his music onto a more practical footing with the launch of his “Let Yourself Trust”, a not-for-profit organization which aims to make a small difference out of great love and commitment by challenging injustice wherever it’s found, educating via advocacy, campaigning for human rights, and raising issues that have been forgotten or ignored via fundraising initiatives, thus bringing about greater awareness for beautiful people in powerless situations

He has won the love of audiences from USA and Canada to Europe through an impressive number of live dates, and has previously toured with the likes of Art Garfunkel, Jools Holland, Ani DiFranco, Suzanne Vega, Mike and The Mechanics, Joan Armatrading, Celine Dion and Shirley Bassey. He is hailed as a raconteur weaving tales on topical concerns, as well as stories on the fragility of love, with a magical ability to reach out to his listeners through his passion and humour. Stunning reviews single him out as an unmissable solo performer whose music stays with you long after the show has ended.

Martyn Joseph. A unique talent driven by passion and love for his trade, continues to write, sing and play from the heart. It’s a road he’s been travelling for most of his life and, as he often tells his audience, ‘You keep turning up and so will I."

jan 31 | the passion of joan of arc | orlando consort live score


Exactly a decade ago, Pacific Theatre brought a remarkable work of art to our stage from New York City, to coincide with the cultural component of the 2010 Olympics. Reid Farrington's THE PASSION PROJECT was a one-woman performance piece which placed an actor/dancer in a 10X10 square of light on which were projected (from multiple angles) a barrage of clips from Dreyer's masterpiece of silent film, THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC. I was so proud of the fact that we were able to place the piece in that year's PUSH Festival, which also featured a screening at Christ Church Cathedral of Dreyer's film accompanied by the live performance of a highly contemporary Stefan Smulovitz score.


Ten seasons later, Pacific Theatre again revisited the story of Joan of Arc this year with our season opener, MOTHER OF THE MAID, also of New York provenance - ours was the Canadian premiere of the work which debuted Off-Broadway the previous season with Glenn Close in the title role. And here we are, exactly ten years after that screening of Dreyer's PASSION at the Cathedral, with another PASSION screening, also at the Cathedral, this time with an ancient score performed live by the Orlando Consort.


Early Music Vancouver presents
FILM IN CONCERT: THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC 
FEATURING THE ORLANDO CONSORT
Fri Jan 31 @ 7:30 (Pre-concert talk 6:45)
Christ Church Cathedral

An intense experience awaits us as we journey to medieval France to witness the trial of Joan of Arc: a silent movie classic, the award-winning Orlando Consort provide beautiful live choral music composed and performed during her lifetime, intricately tailored to enhance the harrowing drama. Condemned unseen in France on its release, vilified by the Catholic authorities and even banned outright in England, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s film, La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (1928), is widely recognised as a masterpiece.

Formed in 1988, the Orlando Consort rapidly achieved a reputation as one of Europe’s most expert and consistently challenging groups performing repertoire from the years 1050 to 1550. Their work successfully combines captivating entertainment and fresh scholarly insight; the unique imagination and originality of their programming together with their superb vocal skills has marked the Consort as the outstanding leaders of their field.

“Simultaneously ravishing and reverential.” – Los Angeles Times

program notes + artist bios

tickets


Monday, January 06, 2020

Christmas campaign 2019 | OVER AND ABOVE!! | 110.6% Thank you so much!!

This Christmas, we're solving the mystery of who makes our theatre work possible.
Is it the illustrious Professor Plum (Phil Miguel), without whom our actors would be left in the dark? Doctor White (Ian Farthing), our multi-skilled Executive Director? The lovely Mrs. Peacock (Cara Norrish), running the show with the help of our hard-working box office staff? The dashing Colonel Mustard, Brad Tones? Or our own A.D. Boddy, Ron Reed?


If you've visited Pacific Theatre before, you already know that it takes a team of dedicated artists, staff, and volunteers to keep creating powerful theatre like this year's Mother Of The Maid or Ron's beautiful interpretation of A Christmas Carol

But the most important piece of the mystery is, of course...
You.
We've kept a tally of all the donations 
to the Christmas Campaign below.

Every gift, large or small, made a difference. Thank you.

$50 + 10 + 5 + 15 + 20 + 34.11 + 300 + 100 + 3000 + 10 + 100 + 1500 + 200 + 1000 + 14.69 + 400 + 5 + 100 + 66.12 + 50 + 1000 +20 + 2500 + 800 + 40 + 1000 +50 + 100 + 500 + 300 + 250 + 1000 + 250 + 500+ 200 + 100 + 200 +  200 + 500 + 1000 +100 + 250 + 500 + 7000 +5000 + 300 + 100 + 150 + 500 + 100 + 1000 + 300 + 500 + 20 + 20 + 350 + 50 + 66.12 + 20 + 500 +100 + 500 + 45 + 300 + 250 + 500 + 50 + 250 + 50 + 50 + 500 + 25 + 38.35 + 200 + 1500 + 1458 + 200 + 2000 + 200 + 200 + 10 + 192 + 50 + 300 + 200 + 240 + 500 + 200 + 100 + 96 + 250 + 50 + 800 + 1500 + 24 + 24 + 24 + 24 + 288 + 48 + 50 + 96 + 75 + 250 + 150 + 2000 + 50 + 100 + 300 + 200 + 1000 + 25 + 500 + 2500 + 100 + 200 + 1000 + 2500 + 50 =

$55, 323.39 (110.6%) towards our goal of $50,000

To donate, click here or give us a call on 604 731 5483

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2019

dec 23 | christmas presence | set list


act one

brett | christmas song
dilliard | feast days
garth | god rest ye/star of wonder
dowie | three wise men - jesus my boy
katie | light of the stable
irving | a prayer for owen meany
spencer | polka
maki | suitcase stories
katie | pilgrim
shaw | christ in you, the hope of glory
garth | huron carol
colhoun | christmas poem
oliver | finding christmas
brett | jesus, what a wonderful child
jon | rescue me


act two

spencer | ashokan farewell
odegard | on buses
katie & kira | emmanuel
donahue | no room at the inn
garth | silent night
klug | joseph's lullaby
ian | joseph's song
boychuk | jesus freak
kira & katie | wexford carol
garber | always winter
lewis | lion, witch and the wardrobe
spencer | new 5 cent piece
buechner | annunication
garth | go tell it on the mountain
stevenson | christmas prayer

singers and musicians

Katie Green
Kira Fondse
garth bowen
Spencer Capier | stringed things
peter abando | keyboards
kenton wiens | drums
mark bender | bass
brett ziegler | additional keyboards, accordian


readers
kaitlin williams, ian farthing, matthew simmons, chris lam, maki yi, jade munsie

links to some of the readings can be found here

dec 21 | christmas presence in the valley | set list


act one

carolyn | christmas must be tonight
dilliard | feast days
michael | wexford carol
anon | ukrainian grandma
spencer | polka
holland | dark, then light
jon | christmas town
mason | the real santa
spencer | hector the hero
oliver | christmas poem
carolyn | holy night
colhoun | creche
michael | little drummer boy
anon | blessing for travelling in the dark
garth | go tell it on the mountain

act two

donahue | no room at the inn
jon | magic
lewis | lion, witch and the wardrobe
garth | god rest ye merry gentlemen
anon | ukrainian grandma part two
carolyn - is bethlehem too far away
mason | miles
michael | make it christmas day
l'engle | tree at christmas
garth | christmas song (alleluia)
buechner | don't be afraid, mary
jon | mary take your child
shaw | mary considers her situation
klug | joseph's lullaby
carolyn | do not be afraid
anon | christmas prayer


singers and musicians
michael hart
jon ochsendorf
garth bowen
spencer capier | stringed things
chris hawley | keyboards


readers
kaitlin williams, erla faye forsyth, ken hildebrandt, phil miguel

links to some of the readings can be found here

dec 22 | christmas presence | set list


act one

rachel | let it snow
farrar capon | advent
peter la grand | angels we have heard on high
donahue | no room at the inn
michael | little drummer boy
graves | god's christmas party
jon | christmas town
maki yi | suitcase stories
rachel | what must it be like
buechner | annunciation
michael | wexford carol
oliver | poem
nelson | finding christmas
peter la grand | king of kings

act two

michael | three generations
odegard | on buses
peter la grand | zion
boychuk | jesus freak
jon | rescue me
blase | a little christmas
michael | make it christmas day
garber | always winter
lewis | lion, witch and the wardrobe
jon | magic
shaw | mary considers her situation
rachel | first noel
klug | joseph's lullaby
peter la grand | come to us emmanuel
richardson | blessing for the dark

singers and musicians
michael hart
jon ochsendorf
peter abando | keyboards
mark bender | bass
byron abando | drums
chris hawley | additional keyboards


readers
kaitlin williams, joel stephanson, cate richardson, maki yi

links to some of the readings can be found here

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

dec 17 | christmas presence | set list


act one

nelson and the boschmen | christmas jazz
dilliard | feast days
the kwerks | god rest ye/star of wonder
dowie | three wise men - jesus my boy
spencer | wassailing
gibson | butterfingers angel
spencer and nelson | red apple
shaw | mary considers her situation
jon | mary take your child and run
shaw | christ in you
the kwerks | all that I want
colhoun | creche
nelson | finding christmas
rosen | no safe place
jon | rescue me
holland | 25th december
nelson | I saw three ships

act two

spencer | hector the hero
nicholson | shadowlands - drinks party
jon | magic
boychuk | jesus freak
nelson | o come, come emmanuel
blase - noel
the kwerks | into the forest
garber | always winter
nelson | yule carol
blase | a little christmas now
lewis | lion, witch and the wardrobe
spencer | new 5 cent piece
blase | a little christmas now
the kwerks | carry me
stevenson | christmas prayer

singers and musicians
nelson boschman
jon ochsendorf
the kwerks
Spencer capier | stringed things
rick colhoun | drums
becca birkner | bass
chris hawley | additional keyboards


readers
kaitlin williams, ian farthing, matthew simmons, chantal gallant

links to some of the readings can be found here

dec 16 | christmas presence | set list


act one

nelson and the boschmen | christmas jazz
blase | a little christmas now
the kwerks | god rest ye/star of wonder
farrar capon | advent
bre | song of the magi
winchester press | southern magi
garth | huron carol
dilliard | god in the doorway
nelson | finding christmas
shaw | christ in you, the hope of glory
garth | god rest ye
buechner | don't be afraid, mary
rosen | no safe place
klug | joseph lullaby
bre | silent night
holland | december 25th
the kwerks | carry me

act two

nelson | christmas jazz
sedaris | front row centre with thaddeus bristol
jon | christmas town
graves | god's christmas party
the kwerks | into the forest
boychuk | jesus freak
nelson | o come, come emmanuel
garber | always winter
the kwerks | all that I want
Lewis | lion, witch and the wardrobe
jon | magic
stevenson | a christmas prayer

singers and musicians
nelson boschman
garth bowen
the kwerks
bre mcdaniel
jon ochsendorf
spencer capier | stringed things
rick colhoun | drums
becca birkner | bass
brett ziegler| additional keyboards


readers
kaitlin williams, ian farthing, kenton klassen, rebecca deboer

links to some of the readings can be found here

dec 15 | christmas presence | set list


act one

nelson and the boschmen | christmas jazz
farrar capon |  advent
katie | light of the stable (alleluia)
anon | christmas wreath
spencer | polka
nicholson | shadowlands
zaac | maybe this christmas
shaw | christ in you, the hope of glory
kira & katie | wexford carol
graves | god's christmas party
nelson | christmas time is here
mason | myles
zaac | oh what night
holland | 25th of december
jon | magic

act two

nelson | christmas jazz
sedaris | front row centre with thaddeus bristol
spencer | wassailing
boychuk | jesus freak
nelson | o come, come emmanuel
rosen | no safe place
katie | pilgrim
garber | always winter
jon | christmas town
blase | a little christmas now
kira & katie | golden cradle
stevenson | a christmas prayer
zaac - finding christmas

singers and musicians
nelson boschman
katie green
kira fondse
zaac pick
jon ochsendorf
pencer capier | stringed things
rick colhoun | drums
becca birkner | bass
chris hawley | additional keyboards


readers
kaitlin williams, ian farthing, nicola shannon

links to some of the readings can be found here